Full steam ahead for NZ 2008

Auckland has been confirmed as the venue for the final of the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup following a successful inspection tour by FIFA representatives.

North Harbour Stadium in New Zealand's most populous city will provide the stage for the tournament showpiece as well as the match for third place on Sunday 16 November, concluding an eagerly-anticipated competition that will kick off on Tuesday 28 October.

The honour of hosting both semi-finals, meanwhile, falls to Christchurch's QEII Park, while Westpac Stadium and Waikato Stadium, in Wellington and Hamilton respectively, will share the responsibility of staging the quarter-finals. All four venues were given the thumbs-up following a visit led by Tatjana Haenni, FIFA's Head of Women's Competitions.

Haenni, a former Swiss international, reported only a few minor and easily-resolved issues at certain stadiums, and hailed New Zealand as the "perfect" venue for FIFA's newest competition. She said: "New Zealand proved to be a successful host in 1999 with the inaugural FIFA U-17 Men's World Cup and we know this year's tournament will be just as big if not bigger."

It may be the new kid on the block in FIFA terms, but this 16-team tournament will nevertheless be watched by more than 150 countries round the world and will showcase the very best in emerging women's talent.

The fact that it is North Shore, one of six territorial authorities in the Auckland region, that will be hosting its finale certainly delighted the city's mayor, Andrew Williams, who predicted the finals will provide a major boost for the entire country. He said: "It will be a chance to showcase Auckland as well as the three other host cities and prove we are a great sporting nation."

Even at this very moment, preparations for the first-ever FIFA U-17 World Cup are continuing apace, with England coach Hope Powell and Sonia Denoncourt, FIFA's Head of Women's Referees, both currently holding seminars during a FIFA Ambassadors Roadshow, news of which will follow on FIFA.com.

In the meantime, why not take a look at the confirmed match schedule for New Zealand 2008 by clicking on the link to the right of this story.